Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

The Leila Invitational Mile: The Recap

posted by Leila Z. on ,

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I had three distances that I was targeting this year: the 10K, the 5K, and the mile. My goal was to PR one of these three distances; to this point I already accomplished two out of three of those this year! I decided to tackle the last of these at the eponymous "Leila Invitational Mile" Sunday morning at the Roosevelt High School track. The "meet" was supposed to be held Saturday afternoon, but forbidding skies, a 20mph wind, and a soccer game (complete with fans in lawn chairs on the track) all conspired to postpone the event until the following day.

My goal in the mile was to break 8:00; two years ago I ran 8:21 for 1600m with a brutal head cold, so -- especially given recent workouts -- I thought this could be an achievable goal. I had three secret weapons, aside from all the 200, 400, and 600m repeats I've been running lately.
  1. My husband Greg, who agreed to be my rabbit and pace me through at least 1000m.
  2. My husband's shoes. We wear the same size shoes (finally, giant feet ftw!), so I availed myself of his vast collection of Brooks shoes, and borrowed some racing flats that had shaved 10 seconds(!) off a 2K repeat earlier in the week.
  3. My new Oiselle singlet, which reportedly holds magical PR powers according to the O Facebook group. :)
Our 8yo, Phil, had been gravely instructed that some serious cowbelling needed to occur to get me through the race, so as I jogged around the track warming up he dutifully clanged our new orange cowbell, pictured below. After about 15 minutes of near constant cowbelling, he asked if the race was almost over! We explained that the main event had not yet begun... though I appreciated the support during my thorough warmup. :)

Warning: cowbell may sound louder than it appears! (All photo credits: Joy Dworkin)
I changed into my singlet, did some strides, and then we had the "opening ceremonies". Race director Greg welcomed us to the meet, and my friend Joy (visiting from MO and thus co-opted into these shenanigans) read the following excerpt from Roger Bannister's memoir The Four-Minute Mile, describing the latter part of that historic race, for inspiration:
"My body had long since exhausted all its energy, but it went on running just the same. The physical overdraft came only from greater willpower. This was the crucial moment when my legs were strong enough to carry me over the last few yards as they could never have done in previous years. With five yards to go the tape seemed almost to recede. Would I ever reach it? 
Those last few seconds seemed never-ending. The faint line of the finishing tape stood ahead as a haven of peace, after the struggle. The arms of the world were waiting to receive me if only I reached the tape without slackening my speed. If I faltered, there would be no arms to hold me and the world would be a cold, forbidding place, because I had been so close. I leapt at the tape like a man taking his last spring to save himself from the chasm that threatens to engulf him." 
Now, I like to think there might still be *some* arms that would hold me even if I didn't achieve my goal, but the words were inspiring nonetheless!

Beginning of lap 3: Phil joins us for a 100m dash in the infield.
We took our places, and we were off! Greg called out splits every 200m; the first few laps felt easy and even slow, though we were mostly right on pace. He reminded me that the goal was to get to halfway feeling pretty good (advice he's given me previously for many different distances). It seemed to me that we picked up the pace around 1000m; at some point Greg called out that he was going to stride out a little to give me a target. My effort felt hard but good until the last 200m, when I felt a little nauseated, but I still was able to kick it in for an official time of 7:49.2! I immediately collapsed on the infield and relished the stillness. Phil rushed over to massage my arms (which were clearly taxed by the race) while the official results were tallied.

I felt fairly smooth and controlled for nearly the whole race, and I can't believe how much having a pacer helps! That said, in retrospect I think I could (should?) have gone out faster; according to my Garmin, our half-mile splits were 4:01.7 and 3:47.5, respectively. There's more work to be done, and I can't wait!
Elated but exhausted. 
After catching my breath and receiving the adulation of the adoring crowd, I got up and ran heat two as well. Phil was convinced to get his mandatory 20 minutes of exercise (or a mile of running) out of the way while we were at the track, so he was off! As Greg noted, Phil was "definitely someone who needs a pacer." He would sprint 50m, then slow down to a trot, rinse, and repeat. At one point he walked a little bit, but then rallied with a pretty good kick for an official time of 12:05 for his first mile ever!
Down the homestretch in heat 2.
Apparently Phil took a page from my book, because he immediately went to ground after finishing:
"I'm so tired!"
In summary, it was a great morning! Many thanks to Greg, Joy, and Phil for indulging me in my Once a Runner-inspired quest to train for the mile and for making it an amazing event to participate in, and to friends and family who followed along virtually. Bring back and long live the mile!

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